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Friday, December 3, 2021

Sierra Leone Urges Safe Burials to Stem Ebola

DAKAR, Senegal — The radio announcement is chilling and blunt: “If I die, I want the deaths to stop with me.” Dr. Desmond Williams continues: “I want to give my family the permission to request a safe and dignified, medical burial for me.”

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The announcement is part of a campaign to urge Sierra Leoneans to abandon traditional burial practices, such as relatives touching or washing the dead bodies, that are fueling the spread of Ebola in the West African country.

Ebola has killed more than 2,000 people in Sierra Leone and unsafe burials may be responsible for up to 70 percent of new infections, say experts.

Officials are resorting to increasingly desperate measures to clamp down on traditional burials in Sierra Leone, where Ebola is now spreading fastest. The head of the Ebola response has even threatened to jail people who prepare the corpses of their loved ones.

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